It was always expected by those not affiliated to any of the tribal political parties that the primary elections would be shambolic.
In Kenya, the one thing that has been consistent is our inability to organise or prepare for anything with a modicum of diligence and professionalism.
Last year, the Olympics team was almost crippled by mismanagement, gross ineptitude and theft. After the Westgate terrorist attack in 2013, there were avowals of better response. Well, the subsequent terrorist attacks in Mpeketoni, Garissa and Mandera all emphasised in gruesome fashion that Westgate had taught us nothing.
We had lapsed back to our cultural mode. No one was held to account for glaring failures. We can be sure that in five or so years’ time, when the next drought hits us, the minister of agriculture will be on TV claiming, as he did in relation to this year’s drought, that fewer deaths were an indication of a hugely improved drought management capability. In this country, we measure progress by number of deaths…
But even as we expected the primaries to be shambolic, chaotic, violent and corrupt, the depths of ineptitude and sheer stupidity that characterised them shocked us.
We also felt ashamed of ourselves, just like so many other times when our ineptitude is laid bare before us.
It is during such times that doubt creeps into our minds about Kenya’s viability as a nation-state and its ambitions to be a developed country in 10 or so years. During such times of doubt, it seems ever more likely that Kenya will revert to a conglomeration of rival and violent tribal interests.
These are legitimate concerns. A country that cannot organise travel for its Olympics team without scandal and theft, a country always caught unprepared by recurrent drought or by annual floods, or by party primaries and general elections that are hardly unforeseen events, etc ad nauseam, has no business aspiring to middle-income status because it simply lacks the attitudinal wherewithal.
On the day of the primaries, people woke up early, some as early as 4am, to go and cast their votes. But in many cases, ballot boxes or ballot papers arrived late, often as late as 4pm. People waited in line all day, many only getting to vote at night. In some places, the ballot papers and boxes did not arrive at all. In other places, the ballot papers were not enough.
In uncountable stations, there was evidence of tampering with votes, the election officials having been compromised. Many acts of violence were witnessed. In this country, as argued in this column before, violence is our fall-back strategy.
It is instructive to look at President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reaction to the national shame. Yes, national shame, because when such depths of ineptitude are reached, even if by a political party, it reflects on our national character. The reason for the failed exercise on the part of the Jubilee Party, said the president, was because they had not anticipated such large voter turnouts.
Let us reflect some more on President Kenyatta’s analysis, for maybe the head of state was using a logic that was not at first apparent but that further reflection will reveal.
Would not a casual glance at voter turnout records in the last election and during this year’s voter registration have given a hint that large voter turnout was likely, especially in Jubilee tribal strongholds?
Was it not a given, then, that one of the contingencies anyone planning Jubilee primaries would consider would be large voter turnouts in those strongholds? If you cannot make contingencies for the obvious, what are the chances that you would have contingencies for more unlikely possibilities?
These questions can as well be asked of the opposition. Their primaries were just as messy and violent. The president’s excuse as well as that of opposition leaders for the national shame captures succinctly the opinion the political class has of ordinary people. When such excuses are given to impoverished people who waited in line for a whole day, it is quite obvious what the political class thinks of them.
By: Tee Ngugi via The EastAfrican